Dr. Birx said she had a 'very uncomfortable' phone call with Trump after she did a CNN interview about the pandemic last year

By Connor Perrett

Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said she last year had an "uncomfortable" conversation with former President Donald Trump after she spoke frankly during a cable news appearance. 

Birx comments come in a preview of the upcoming documentary about the pandemic titled "COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out," which airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CNN.

"It was a CNN report in August that got horrible pushback," Birx said in the clip published Sunday by CNN. "That was a very difficult time, because everybody in the White House was upset with that interview and the clarity that I brought about the epidemic.

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"I got called by the President," she added. "It was very uncomfortable, very direct, and very difficult to hear."

As CNN noted, Birx in August appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" and offered a critical perspective on the state of the pandemic in the US at that time. In the interview, Birx said that the pandemic in August 2020 differed from a surge earlier in the year because the virus had infiltrated rural communities. 

"What we are seeing today is different from March and April," she said at the time. "It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas." 

When asked by CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta if she felt threatened by the former president, she repeated the exchange had been a "very uncomfortable conversation." 

Birx told Gupta she knew she was "being watched."

"Everybody inside was waiting for me to make a misstep so that they could, I guess, remove me from the task force," she said.

Trump had a rocky relationship with his coronavirus taskforce advisers, as he publicly disregarded their advice, though he more publicly sparred with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

Fauci has previously spoken out about what it was like working with the former president and said working under Biden was "liberating" in comparison. Trump in an interview in March bragged about having ignored Fauci's recommendations

"I thought rather than firing him, you know, I listened to him, but I didn't do what he said because frankly, his record is not a good record," Trump said on "The Truth with Lisa Boothe" podcast.

In an interview with The New York Times published in January, Fauci said Trump would sometimes call him after he gave an interview and ask why he hadn't given a more "positive" outlook on the pandemic

In a recently published clip from the forthcoming CNN documentary, Birx said every COVID-19 death in the US that occurred after the first 100,000 could've been mitigated after the first surge.

As of Sunday, more than 549,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University. The US reached 100,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of May 2020.